What we'll remember the most about the colorful character that is Les Miles
There will be talk in the coming days about where Les Miles will coach next.
I hope he doesn’t.
Because when we look back on what was, love him or hate him, a wildly successful tenure as LSU’s head football coach — and yes, 114-34 IS wildly successful — what we’ll remember the most is the character that was Les Miles.
With that in mind, he should be in TV.
Are you listening, ESPN?
Think about it? The memories we’ll all have of Miles rarely involve a game, but what he said or did. Let’s look at a few of the things we’ll remember about him, for better or worse:
Nobody could come up with more interesting ways to convey simple thoughts.
Like the time he encouraged people to give his players love.
“Spectacular group of men,” he said. “You got to find them, you throw your arms around them and give them a big kiss on the mouth … if you’re a girl.”
Or the time he decided to encourage the populous to vote:
“Just recognize that it’s Election Day coming up, where all those model citizens will get off and take care of their duties to their country,” he said. “This is not Columbus Day. This is not just for the Italians. This is certainly not St. Patty’s. It’s not just for the Irish. It’s for all of those who have the ability to vote in our country, so get out and do that please.”
We’re just at the tip of the iceberg here, but we’ll close with a quote that wound up with an unintentional double meaning for a man who eventually lost his job mainly because of offensive ineptness. But the question he was answering was about LSU’s frequent loss of players to the NFL after their junior seasons.
“We do lead college in three-and-outs,” Miles said.
Clock management woes
At the end of a 25-23 loss to Ole Miss in 2009, LSU allowed more than 20 seconds of clock to run off after a completed pass, an inexplicable waste of time that kept the Tigers from being able to line up to kick a game-winning field goal.
“I’d be the first one to tell you that I would like to think that I had called timeout before that,” he said.
“I can’t imagine that I did not. I can’t tell you that I did, and that’s my issue.”
It wasn’t the only time LSU had that problem. In his last game, the Tigers squandered time in the final drive and eventually LSU scored a would-be winning touchdown, but replay showed the ball was not snapped before the clock had expired.
Then, there was the 16-14 win over Tennessee in 2010 where the Tigers squandered time and appeared to lose the game when center T-Bob Hebert snapped the ball over an unprepared Jordan Jefferson’s head from the 1-yard line as time expired. But in the chaos, Tennessee had too many players on the field, giving LSU one more play and Stevan Ridley scored the winning touchdown from inside the 1.
The last minute of a close game was always interesting.
“Have a Great Day”
When LSU was preparing to play for the SEC championship in 2007, reports surfaced that he would leave LSU to accept the opening at Michigan, his alma mater.
Miles called a press conference to squash those rumors in a way only he could.
“I’m the head coach at LSU,” he said. “I will be the head coach at LSU. I have no interest in talking to anybody else. I got a championship game to play, and I’m excited for the opportunity of my damn strong football team to play in it. Please ask me after. I’m busy. Thank you very much. Have a great day!”
Eating his greens
Miles was caught on camera reaching down, pulling out a blade of grass from the ground and eating it during an LSU rally to beat Alabama 24-21 in 2010.
Later, he explained it was part of a ritual he enjoys to feel at one with the venue and the game.
“I can tell you one thing,” he said. “The grass at Tiger Stadium tastes best.”
Inept offensive games
The frustrating thing for LSU fans was that many of Miles’ teams could have big offensive output one night, then have games where the offense would be completely inept.
The best case for this was the 92 yards of offense the Tigers managed in the 21-0 loss to Alabama in the 2011 BCS National Championship Game.
But that was far from the only such performance. There was the 41-7 loss to Auburn and the 17-0 shutout by Arkansas in 2014. The 30-16 loss to Alabama in 2015, where the Tigers managed just 182 yards offense.
When LSU would struggle on offense under Miles, the struggles were often of epic proportions.
Fake field goals
Never one to shy away from taking a risk, Miles had a knack for finding the right moment to fake a kick.
In 2007, there was kicker Colt David’s 15-yard run on a fake field goal against South Carolina. In 2010, LSU used the same play against Florida, and on this one kicker Josh Jasper fielded an over-the-shoulder lateral from holder Derek Helton off a bounce and converted for a first down that set up a touchdown.
The toss lead
It was a signature Les Miles play few other teams run. Out of an I-formation, the quarterback pitches the ball to the tailback, who instead of running wide like most pitch plays, takes the ball right up the gut. The quarterback, after pitching, joins the blocking scrum.
It’s the ultimate power play, and it was inevitable to see a Miles-coached team run it often during the course of a game. On one hand, it established the physical mindset Miles wanted from his offenses. But on the other hand, it infuriated fans who wanted to see more creative play calling.
Fourth down? Go for it!
Then, there was the fourth down game against Florida in 2007, when Miles went for it on fourth down four times and converted all four. A couple of them came on the winning drive that ended with Jacob Hester’s 2-yard touchdown that gave the Tigers a 28-24 win.
Gambles like those and the fake field goals, plus Miles’ habit of wearing his baseball caps unusually high on his head, earned him the nickname “The Mad Hatter.”
Hoisting the trophy
Love him or hate him, Miles is just one of three LSU coaches to claim a national championship.
The 2007 team pulled it off, beating Ohio State in the national championship game. In yet another unconventional Miles twist, that LSU team was the only BCS national champion to win the title with two losses.
Regardless, he’s one of just three LSU coaches to win a national title, joining Paul Dietzel and Nick Saban. That will always earn him a spot among the best who ever coached at LSU.